On the Road Again.

A retelling of the trip from Bree to Rivendell.

Disclaimer: I don't own Lord of the Rings.

(A\N: This is based on the books, though the opening scene is from the movie.)

Part One: The Marshes

"Gentlemen, we do not stop until nightfall," said Aragorn, as the hobbits sat down, and pulled out their cooking gear.

"What about breakfast?" Pippin complained. To him, they had been going forever, and he was hungry.

"You've already had it." Aragorn seemed to think that this was an appropriate answer, judging by the expression on his face. Merry obviously knew that that was no answer, but did not speak up. But Pippin knew how a hobbit thought and said, quite sensibly, "We've had one, yes. What about second breakfast?"

Aragorn answered by walking away, leaving Pippin and Merry to follow. "He is no hobbit, I guess," thought Pippin. "But I thought that humans knew about second breakfast."

"I don't think he knows about second breakfast, Pip," said Merry, echoing Pippin's very thoughts; they thought so much alike.

But Pippin was still worried, and asked: "What about elevenses? Luncheon? Afternoon tea?" He grew more frantic. "Dinner? Supper? He knows about them... Doesn't he?"

"I wouldn't count on it," said Merry, looking at Pippin with a face that showed a little worry. An apple flew from over the hedge, and Merry caught it.

"How come he gets all the luck?" thought Pippin, looking at the apple with some envy.

Merry handed the apple to Pippin and patted him on the back. "Gee, thanks, Merry," Pippin thought, and took the apple, wondering where it came from.

As Merry began to walk away, another apple flew out, and this time hit Pippin on the head. Pippin picked it up, and looked up, bewildered. "Where in Middle-earth did that come from?" he thought.

"Pippin," called Merry, and Pippin had no more time to wonder, as he followed after Merry, still holding the apples tightly in his hands.

He ran as fast as it was possible for a hobbit to catch up to Merry, and asked, "Merry, where did that come from?"

"What, Pip?" asked Merry, following Aragorn, Frodo, and Sam, as they walked up ahead.

"The apples, Merry. You know," said Pippin. "Someone threw one at me."

If they had been up ahead with Aragorn, they would've seen a faint smile on his face, as he listened to the two young hobbits talk.

"What is it, Strider?" asked Frodo. "I've never seen you smile before."

"You have not known me long, Frodo," answered Aragorn, thinking of Rivendell, Arwen, and the two youngest hobbits. "Mischief makers," he thought, smiling grimly. "They do get in the way a lot. I really hope that Elrond will send them back to the Shire... But yet, I'm beginning to get a feeling for those hobbits. They know nothing, and yet everything. I begin to understand Gandalf's reasoning."

"Strider?"

Frodo grabbed his sleeve, and Aragorn batted him away, not really thinking.

"Aragorn, are you trying to run into a tree?"

This time Frodo was a bit more insistent.

Aragorn stopped. "I'm sorry, Frodo. I was just thinking."

"You love her, don't you?"

Aragorn stopped. "Love who?"

"You spoke of a girl. Arwen. Who is she?"

"Arwen." Aragorn stopped; looked ahead. "She is an elf maiden," he answered at last. "She will cross over the seas with her people."

"Oh." Frodo looked back. Merry and Pippin were chattering on. "As usual," he thought.

"How could've an apple hit you on the head?" asked Merry. "Apples don't fall from the sky."

"I know what hit me," insisted Pippin. "You caught one yourself." He handed Merry the one apple. "Remember?"

"Oh, yes. That." Merry looked thoughtful. "There's your second breakfast then, Pippin."

"Oh." Pippin looked down at the apple he held. "I never thought of it that way."

"Hurry up, slowpokes!" called Sam. "You're gettin' behind, and you'll be left behind."

Merry and Pippin looked at each other; looked at Sam, who, along with Aragorn and Frodo, were quite a ways ahead, and back at themselves.

"Race yah?" said Merry.

"You're on," said Pippin, momentarily forgetting the apple as they dashed to catch up to the others.

When they finally caught up, both of the hobbits were out of breath.

"Beat yah," said Merry, teasing Pippin, as they always did.

"I'll get you next time," said Pippin, gasping to catch his breath, and still stay in step with Aragorn, Frodo, and Sam.

"Slowpokes," said Sam. "What took you so long?"

He asked teasingly, and Pippin and Merry knew this. "You try beating Merry next time," said Pippin, waving his hand in Merry's general direction. As he did this, he looked down at his hand, and noticed the apple again. "I'll get you, Merry Brandybuck," said Pippin, with a glint in his eyes. "I'll get you later."

"I'm so afraid," said Merry, turning to talk with Frodo and leaving Pippin to dream up all sorts of revenge. Neither of them noticed Aragorn's slight smile, as he glanced at Pippin.

As they walked, Pippin allowed himself to drift into his thoughts for revenge. The two had always been pranksters, and always played jokes on each other. Sam was talking to himself. Something about potatoes and Rosie Cotton, Pippin heard. He knew; everyone in the Shire knew, that Sam was in love with Rosie.

Merry was talking to Frodo; Pippin never heard what they were saying, and Aragorn walked in silence, thinking of Arwen, but also Pippin.

"Ah, Pippin," Aragorn thought. "Young hobbit, and is probably still wondering where those apples came from."

And, of course, at the same time, Pippin was thinking: "I wonder where that apple came from. I'm sure that Merry knows. I'll bet that Strider knows too. Hey... Strider... I wonder. He could've thrown that apple from the bush. He was the one who said that we couldn't stop. But he never said anything against breakfast."

"Strider," he asked out loud, "did you throw that apple?"

Aragorn looked somewhat surprised that Pippin had asked. But before he could say anything, Merry piped up: "Pippin, how could you ask that? You know perfectly well that Strider is not the type to throw apples... Aren't you, Strider?" As he said this last part hesitantly, his mind drifted back to Bree... And to Bill Ferny. "That's stick-at-naught-Strider, that is," Ferny had said.

And the way Ferny had spoken about Aragorn; he obviously hadn't trusted him. But Bill Ferny wasn't exactly the type one wanted to meet in the dark either.

Before Merry could voice his thoughts, Aragorn spoke. "Yes, Pippin, I did throw that apple. You wanted breakfast, I gave you breakfast."

"You hit me on the head!" protested Pippin.

"Maybe it knocked a little sense into you," said Aragorn. "And then maybe you'll stay quieter. Come on. I'd like to keep a set pace, and reach the Marshes by tonight."

Pippin glared at Aragorn's comment, but sped up. They were well on their way to Rivendell now.

"Well, Pip, maybe he did knock some sense into you," Merry said a little later. Pippin had been walking in silence the entire time.

"Huh? Oh, I was just thinking," Pippin said. "What did you say?"

Merry looked at him. "You didn't hear? Pippin, you are being quieter than normal. Even Sam noticed. You usually talk nonstop."

Pippin glared at him. "Well maybe I don't want to always be known as the little hobbit who talks to much, and drives everyone up the wall."

"Sorry," said Merry. "I didn't mean to hurt your feelin's. Strider didn't mean it, you know."

But Pippin didn't hear him, he was to busy thinking up plans for revenge.

They passed into the Midgewater Marshes, and it was one of the worst things Pippin had ever went through. The midges attacked nonstop, and drove all thoughts of revenge from his mind. He still held onto his apple, however.

Pippin was quite the entire time through the Marshes. Merry watched him with growing concern; he had never seen Pippin like this before. In the Shire, they had always talked. They were best of friends, talking about the girls they liked.

Merry smiled, thinking of Pippin, and his reactions to Diamond, when she had told Pippin that she liked him. And he smiled again, thinking about Estella. Then there was Sam. Poor, poor Sam. Rosie liked him, everyone could see it. Sam liked her too, but he was to embarrassed to say it; hiding in 'Mr. Frodo's' garden instead.

"Pippin?" he asked, grabbing Pippin before he walked into the Marshes.

"Leave me alone!" Pippin snapped, shaking himself from Merry's grasp. Aragorn looked back at them for al moment, than looked forwards.

"We are nearly at the end of the Marshes!" he announced, pointing forwards.

"Well, that's a relief," said Frodo. "I was beginning to think we'd be eaten alive. The midges are killing me. And the Neekerbreekers are driving me insane. They must be evil relatives of the crickets!"

"My thoughts exactly," said Merry.

Pippin smiled, for the first time in a while, it seemed. "Yes," he said, "evil indeed. And the midges are as well."

"What do they live on when they can't get hobbit?" asked Sam, slapping at his neck. "I'll be glad to see the end of these swamps."

"It should be a day or so more journey," said Aragorn, "so don't get your hopes up yet."

"Leave it to Strider to burst our bubble," Merry whispered to Pippin. "We must all look foul now."

"I heard that, Merry," said Aragorn, as he took the lead again.

Merry smiled foolishly, and grinned at Pippin. Pippin looked back at him, and didn't smile back. "What's your problem?" asked Merry.

Pippin didn't answer, but followed Aragorn, leaving Merry to wonder silently.

They continued on though the Marshes, and Pippin remained quiet. That night, Merry found himself unable to sleep well, and was just about to drift off, when he heard Frodo speak to Aragorn.

"What is the light?" he asked.

Merry looked off into the distance and realized that it was unusually bright. There was a light, as if it were lightning leaping off the hills.

He stayed awake long enough to hear Aragorn answer: "I do not know."

Pippin was also awake, but he was not listening to them talk. He thought, and dreamed up what he could do to get Merry for beating him, and Strider for telling him he talked to much, and throwing the apple at him.

Aragorn remained awake for the remainder of the night, looking at the light, and wondering, himself, what it could be.

It was the fifth day that they finally left the Marshes completely behind, and the midges stopped pursuing them. In the distance they could see a dark, and evil, barrowdownish looking hill; the hill that they were headed for.

"That is Weathertop," announced Aragorn, pointing at the evil looking hill. He and Frodo said more, but Merry and Pippin did not listen to him; it meant little to them. They were both thinking of the Barrowdowns, and the Barrow-wight. But they did catch Aragorn's words: "Not all the birds are to be trusted, and there are other spies more evil then they are."

Merry looked up at the sky nervously, thinking of Bree, and the Ring Wraiths.

Pippin also looked up, but he was thinking that if a bird flew over Merry, it would be funny if it did his business over top.

Frodo glanced up, and wondered what Aragorn meant, and Sam looked up with the thoughts that roast bird would taste good.

They went on, Frodo, quite likely thinking of the Ring, and what he would do with it in Rivendell.

Aragorn was quiet. He thought of Arwen, and Rivendell.

In fact, they all were quiet, with different things on their minds at the moment. Pippin was thinking of revenge again, but he had finally ate his apple. And Merry was thinking of the girls in the Shire, and wondering whether Rosie could like him too.

"You do make me feel uncomfortable and lonesome, Strider," said Sam.

"What do you advise us to do?" asked Frodo.

"I think," said Strider slowly, for he himself really had no particular plan. "I think the best thing is to go as straight eastward from here as we can, to make for the line of hills, not for Weathertop. Then we can strike a path I know that runs at their feet; it will bring us to Weathertop from the north, and less openly. Then we shall see what we shall see."

All day long they walked quietly, and the Marches drew further away, and they left the mists that surrounded the place away, as the day drew closer to its' end.

Pippin was glad to leave the Marshes behind, for even though he had been more quiet, and not for the Marshes, they troubled him, reminded him of the Barrowdowns.

Merry thought likewise, but, like Pippin, did not voice his thoughts on the Barrow. He was more troubled by the hill that they headed for; it had a Barrowdownish look, and he wondered if a Barrow-wight had lived up there at one time.

Aragorn led them towards the hill with little difficulty; he knew where he was headed. The hobbits had little to do but follow him, and wonder silently. Pippin soon found himself thinking of getting Merry back again, though he really had nothing against Merry.

They traveled all day, and did not reach the hill by nightfall, and found themselves camping by a small stream that wound its' way down from the hills, and into the Marshes foul waters.

That night they set a watch, for there was something about the hills that troubled the hobbits. Aragorn, it seemed, did not sleep at all that night, but stayed awake, smoking his pipe thoughtfully.

Pippin slept like a log, for he had been staying awake far too late. Frodo slept an uneasy sleep, as if he knew something was coming, and, surprisingly, Sam slept also. Merry had taken the first watch, for he was not tired.

"Why do you not sleep, Strider?" Merry asked, looking over at Aragorn, who sat there, looking up at the stars; searching almost, it seemed. "You should rest as well."

"I am not tired, Merry," said Strider, thoughtfully. "The land is troubled, a sense of danger lingers here. A sense of foreboding danger. Did you notice how little birds there were?"

Merry nodded, then realized Aragorn wasn't looking at him, and answered. "Yes. There were very few, but I thought little of it. You said the birds were not to be trusted."

"Yes, that I did." Aragorn looked out at the stars, towards Rivendell, towards safety. "But the lack of the birds can also be a bad sign. You need not worry yet, Merry. I need little sleep, and have traveled these lands before. You need not worry, and should rest, like the others."

Merry shook his head. "I am not tired, so I took first watch."

"You don't need to. I am here to watch."

"No, Strider, I am fine with watching. As I said, I am not tired yet," Merry insisted. "I will stay up for now."

Aragorn smiled. "As you wish."

Merry stayed up for quite a while. The moon was waxing, and set an eerie shadow over the area. The other side of the hills were, Merry assumed, bathed in the blue light of the moon. But they sat in shadow, until the moon had moved far enough to light the area in which they camped with silvery blue moon and starlight.

Merry went to sleep soon after that, and Aragorn remained awake late into the night, when he allowed himself a few hours of sleep before dawn.

To be continued

(I can't wait to write Weathertop!)